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White Women Are Part Of White Supremacy. And We Need To Acknowledge That.

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As you all know by now, this weekend, white supremacists descended on Charlottesville, Virginia for a “Unite the Right” rally, a response to the proposed removals of statues of Confederate generals, particularly one of Robert E. Lee. White supremacists used violence against anti-racist protesters, killing one, Heather D. Heyer, and injuring at least 34 more.

On Friday, white supremacists marched on the University of Virginia, and photos of angry men baring tiki torches quickly spread — leading to countless joking tweets about the patheticness of white men. 

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We need to remember that white women are part of white supremacy, too.

A statistic that has been shared often in the months since the election is that 53% of white women voted for Donald Trump. For comparison, 94% of black women voted for Hillary Clinton.

But voting for Trump isn’t the only way white women have participated in white supremacy.

White women were, and are, members of the KKK. At The Cut, Laura Smith writes that in the 1920s, women were particularly influential in the Klan, with Elizabeth Tyler spearheading the powerful, all-women branch Women of the Ku Klux Klan. The group “helped to normalize the terrorism of the men’s KKK” by “hiding their white supremacist mission behind a facade of social welfare," and Tyler was vital in expanding the Klan's targets from black people to also include Jews, Catholics, immigrants, and Communists. 

In the same era, and as early as the 1860s, Timeline’s Matt Reimann writes, white women of the United Daughters of the Confederacy were responsible for the prominence of statues of Confederate generals in the South — the same statues that the white supremacists at “Unite the Right” were “defending.”

While the majority of the white supremacists at “Unite the Right” were men, there were also white women present — and as writer Jamilah Lemieux tweeted, there were plenty of white women supporting the movement from a distance. “White women, don't think the Charlottesville photos let you off the hook for even a second,” she tweeted. “A lot of those men went home to cuddles and pie.”

It’s easy to find evidence of this. Look at @WifeWithAPurpose, who calls herself the “alt-right poster girl” and has over 32,000 followers on Twitter. @WifeWithAPurpose’s husband attended “Unite the Right,” but she did not, because, as she tweeted, she had to take care of their children.

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She joined in on Twitter, though, with tweets like this:

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White women may not be as visible in the white supremacy movement as white men are, but don’t doubt it, they are very much a part of it. And white supremacy is insidious in our culture every single day, yes, even outside of the so-called "alt-right" white supremacy movement. 

White women, we can’t simply blame the violence in Charlottesville on the patriarchy and wash our hands of it. We need to actively unlearn, challenge, and fight white supremacy. We need to hold ourselves, our families, our friends, and our communities accountable. We need to do better.

Top photo: Klanswomen gather on August 31, 1929 in front of Assembly Hall, Zarephath, New Jersey, for "Patriotic Day" during the Pillar of Fire Church's annual Camp Meeting. Via Wikimedia Commons.

This post was published on August 14, 2017

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Erika W. Smith is BUST's digital editorial director. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram @erikawynn and email her at erikawsmith@bust.com.

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